At the end of a long and distinguished career in politics, Pranab Mukherjee has finally ascended Raisina Hill to become the 13th President of India. Almost to a man, every politician, expert and analyst has doffed his hat to Mukherjee’s political sagacity and stamina, his knowledge of constitutional affairs, and so on.
Yet, there is an element of doubt about what his presidency is going to be.
Since 1984, Mukherjee has carried the accusation that he secretly coveted the prime minister’s post, which is why he earned Rajiv Gandhi‘s distrust, or at least of those close to him, with the result that he had to leave the Congress briefly. Although the Congress and UPA backed him four-square in the presidential campaign, some say he was never really Sonia Gandhi‘s first choice for the post (Hamid Ansari was the other); in fact, Sonia had snubbed an earlier attempt to become deputy PM.
More importantly, ever since he relinquished the finance minister’s post, a number of attempts have been made to tar-brush his record (his retroactive imposition of taxes on Vodafone, etc) and, although he was at the helm when NRIs were allowed to invest in Indian companies in the early 1980s, he is now being loosely called “India’s worst finance minister ever”.
Question: Will Pranab Mukherjee be a copy-book President, going strictly by the Constitution, or given his baggage with the Congress, is he likely to be a bit of an imponderable in 2014, when the time to swear in the next government comes?